It’s part of Md. Zika Awareness Week, Apr. 24-30.
A number of activities are being hosted this week by the Frederick County Health Department. It’s all designed to prevent the spread of this disease in the state.
Governor Larry Hogan declared April 24-30 as Maryland Zika Awareness week in the state. “This is the beginning of the mosquito breeding season,” says Frederick County Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer. “Before the mosquitoes have an opportunity to grow to big numbers this year, we’d like to make people aware of what they can do around their homes to reduce the breeding areas for mosquitoes.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Zika Virus is spread by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, also known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito. The virus has been labeled the cause of birth control in infants, specifically microcephaly, where an infant head is smaller than usual, due to abnormal brain development. The disease is very active in Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
The disease has not been detected in mosquitoes found in Maryland, says Dr. Brookmyer. “We’re not at the point where we have that, but we would like to reduce the potential for mosquitoes to come in contact with anyone who is infectious with Zika,” she says.;
As part of Maryland Zika Awareness Week, Dr. Brookmyer says cable Channel 19, the Frederick County government channel, will broadcast “Local Homeowners Mosquito Protection Tips–Drain, Dress and Defend” on its Focus on Health program. The channel will also air a public information briefing on Zika featuring County Executive Jan Gardner.
Along with that, the Health Department will be sending out a “Zika Awareness Kits” to homeowners associations, neighborhood advisory councils, cemeteries and parks and recreation departments which contain information on draining standing water so that mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed. “The solution to the Asian Tiger Mosquito is not widespread spraying,” says Dr. Brookmyer. “It’s really what we do to those little places of water around our homes, whether it’s an upside down toy, whether it’s our trash can or recycling bin.”
Mosquitoes breed in standing water, and the Asian Tiger Mosquito needs only a small amount of water to lay its eggs. Dr. Brookmyer says that makes it a priority to drain areas of standing water around your property. “People can reduce the breeding grounds for the Asian Tiger Mosquito. We can reduce the potential for coming into contact with the Zika Virus, but also some other viruses,” she says.
The Zika Virus has also been the cause of birth defects in infants, and pregnant women are encouraged to protect themselves. That includes wearing protective clothing, and using a spray containing Deet. Dr. Brookmyer says if they plan to get pregnant, they need to take precautions, especially when having sex. “So we’re recommending condoms be worn by the partners of pregnant women if those partners have traveled to areas where Zika is being actively transmitted,” she says.
There have been nine cases of the Zika Virus in Maryland, but they’re related to travel to and from countries where the virus is active. None of them are local transmissions.
For more on Zika, you can go to the CDC website at http://goo.gl.mzPHVy. Dr. Brookmyer says another source is the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s website at mda.maryland.gov.